The 10 Winners of Adweek’s 2013 Media Plan of the Year

When an ad campaign ends up succeeding, so often it's the creative agency that gets all the credit. Adweek's Media Plan of the Year aims to give credit where it's also due: the media planners who determine the right time and place to showcase the advertising and maximize the return for the client. Our 10 winners this year all secured impressive returns for their clients: President Obama was reelected; Volkswagen sold more Beetles to men; Target's swimsuit sales rose significantly; Activision rang up $1 billion in Call of Duty: Black Ops II sales in two weeks. Take a look at all our winners, below.

View the 2013 Media Plan of the Year Winners

Adweek owes a debt of gratitude to six executives for taking the time to judge all 196 entries submitted to this year’s competition (except where they abstained from any conflicts of interest):

Mark Egan, chief strategy officer, Maxus
Bryan Fuhr, chief strategy officer, Havas Media
Marianne Gambelli, evp, chief investment officer, Horizon Media
Jonathan Haber, chief innovation officer, OMD U.S.
Heather Kruse, vp, media director, Haworth Marketing + Media
Brent Poer, president, LiquidThread

1

Integrated: $1 Million- $10 Million

Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky
Client: Grey Poupon

When Kraft first tasked Crispin Porter + Bogusky with reviving Grey Poupon’s marketing, the budget was tight. “The first year we had basically no money to bring this brand back,” recalls Bryant King, vp, director of message planning and analytics at the agency.

Cue 2012’s “Society of Good Taste” campaign, an unusually exclusive Facebook fan page that only accepted the “likes” of people whose individual profiles the brand’s algorithm deemed worthy of approving its product, based on factors like grammar and favorite books. The attention-grabbing stunt cut against other marketers’ open-armed scramble for social connections with consumers. Over the six-month course of the campaign, Grey Poupon ended up rejecting some 35,000 applicants—more than the 32,000 it accepted. What it sacrificed in customer contact information, though, it gained in chatter about the club’s cheekily snobbish tone. The Facebook page netted more than 123,000 unique visitors, each for an average of six minutes. More importantly, it generated more than 285 million total media impressions. “I think it was for us worth the buzz to turn away that many people,” says Kraft senior director of enhancers Sara Braun, who stewards the Grey Poupon brand.

The Society’s success ultimately helped lead Grey Poupon back to TV—but the brand’s first flight in 16 years wasn’t exactly traditional. Crispin concentrated its spend in a single, high-impact 30-second spot during the 2013 Oscars (:30s in the show were going, on average, for a cool $1.7 million). The twist: The ad served as a teaser for a two-minute film, launched online that night, which harked back to the mustard’s classic, classy “Pardon Me” ad from 1981. In the newer, Bruckheimeresque version, two gentlemen in Rolls Royces don’t just exchange pleasantries and mustard; instead, one chases the other in an action-packed sequence, featuring absurdist highbrow weaponry such as a champagne-cork machine gun.

On Oscar night, Grey Poupon sent 254 tweets, got 454 retweets and 5,700 total brand mentions, and picked up 414 new followers, while the film racked up more than 1.7 million views between YouTube and its dedicated website. A total of 363 media outlets, including Good Morning America, picked up the story, earning Grey Poupon 144 million impressions—2.5 times the 55 million it actually bought. “When you chart out our sales, you can definitely see a measurable percent-change lift, versus the prior week, in those couple weeks after the Oscars campaign,” says Braun.

The Society of Good Taste app, meanwhile, was enough of a hit that the brand has brought it back—to stay. —Gabriel Beltrone

2

Integrated: $25 Million +

Agency: Carat
Client: Procter & Gamble

Overlooked in all the accolades heaped on Procter & Gamble’s “Proud Sponsor of Moms” Olympic campaign in the last year is Carat’s media plan, which required logistics worthy of staging the Olympics itself.

The creative concept was simple, but powerful: thank moms behind Olympic athletes, the moms who get up at the crack of dawn to take their son or daughter to practice, the moms who cheer victory or provide comfort in defeat, the moms who sacrifice every dime to make sure their aspiring athlete can realize their dream.

Execution was key. First, upgrade P&G’s sponsorship to an official Olympics sponsor. Second, leverage creative shop Wieden + Kennedy’s emotive campaign theme to link the P&G name to the 34 brands involved. Finally, transform the campaign into a global movement by immersing the consumer with the brands and the message at every level, on every platform, from smartphones to stores in 204 international markets.

The result is the largest and most successful campaign in P&G’s 175-year history. It delivered $200 million in incremental sales, a record-setting ROI. Consumer familiarity with P&G swelled 22 percent.

“Never had so many brands rallied around one cultural moment,” says Will Swayne, Carat’s executive director, East Coast. Carat coordinated with multiple P&G shops and collaborated with brand teams, holding social workshops so that each brand could integrate the messaging. “It was huge. P&G never did anything on this scale before,” Swayne adds.

The campaign launched, appropriately, just before Mother’s Day, heralding a 100-day countdown to the London 2012 Olympics with a two-minute video (“Best Jobs”) on P&G’s brand sites and Facebook page. Leveraging its 750,000 Facebook fans, P&G pledged to donate $1 to its Team USA Youth Sports Fund for every like in exchange for access to special videos. By the time the effort ended, P&G had more than 300 million fans.

Through social media, moms became the campaign’s ambassadors. “We made the moms feel like an insider. We rewarded our most faithful fans with content and then asked them to share it,” says Janet Fletcher, P&G’s associate sports marketing director for the Olympics.

By the time the campaign moved to TV, the signature video had already been shared 6 million times. NBC’s Today show cast talked up the popularity of the video. Many moms couldn’t afford to travel to London, so P&G surprised some Olympics moms with a financial gift to travel to watch their child compete. TV programs with strong social interaction, such as Fox’s American Idol and NBC’s The Voice, were bought to drive people back to Facebook and Twitter.

“TV plays a role when you have a great piece of content and to achieve reach,” Swayne says. “But the way we used digital was significant.”

P&G brands sponsored more than 150 athletes from 48 countries to serve as “brand ambassadors.” A series of 50 or so video tributes, Raising an Olympian, told the story of the sponsored athletes through the eyes of their moms. The videos were released every few days on social media platforms and ultimately drew 17 million views. And yes, there was a “Thank You, Mom” social app.

During the Games, P&G and Carat worked with NBC and regional broadcasters to capture the moms’ reactions to gold-winning moments of P&G’s athletes. Four ads were shot, produced and aired in 48 hours featuring gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber and decathlete Ashton Eaton, and their moms.

P&G says its ad recall soared, scoring 38 percent higher than any other U.S. Olympic sponsor. “This depth of storytelling was authentic and instrumental in delivering such high recall. By following it up with actions that people responded to, it deepened the loyalty of the people we are trying to serve,” Fletcher says. —Katy Bachman

3

Integrated: $10 Million – $25 Million

Agency: PHD
Client: HBO's Game of Thrones

It may seem like medieval fantasy to its hard-core loyalists, but Game of Thrones plays off the drama of real life: power, sexuality, religion, loyalty, politics, crime and corruption. So for the HBO series’ third season, Dragon Shadow, the aim was to broaden the cult show’s appeal to a more mainstream audience and launch it into the larger culture.

The story’s dragons, teased in Seasons 1 and 2, featured heavily in the latest series, and the marketing’s creative strategy was built around the mythical reptiles’ broader fascination as well as their specific storyline appeal to show fanatics.

Omnicom Media Group shop PHD unleashed the dragons six weeks in advance of the Thrones’ March 31 premiere, using a much wider range of media than previously executed. Although the expensive, critically acclaimed show had already built a following, the debut of the third season put it up against the blockbuster finale of The Bible and new genre competitors like Vikings, which not only played off the HBO series’ success, but quite literally its marketing. (Game of Thrones first season tag: “Winter Is Coming.” Vikings: “The Storm Is Coming.”)

“The key here was orchestration. When would our media break, what type should it be, how would it build?” says Andrea Cardamone, svp, group account director at PHD. “We started much further out and used assets and media working together in a way to keep things unexpected.”

However unexpected, response was immediate. Within five days of launch, the show’s dragons trailer received 17 million views, with a click-through rate that was 11 times the industry average. The dragons then appeared in key outdoor locations on places like buildings and bus shelters. Print appeared as the dragons cast their shadow over pages in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Post.

In magazines, the first four titles were key in mapping out media strategy across interest groups: Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, ESPN and Vanity Fair. With digital, HBO spoke both to consumers on sites like Entertainment Weekly, the New York Post’s Page Six and IMDb and to the entertainment industry with (Adweek sister publication) The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.

PHD also did something new for the series when it produced a co-branded spot, featuring New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, which aired in multiple NBA games on ESPN during the weeks of March 19 and 26.

Dragon Shadow captured the attention of 14 million viewers, almost double the 8.3 million watching during the second season, and the most for an HBO series since The Sopranos.

While Thrones had skewed male previously, female demos surged in the third season. There was a 46 percent jump in women 35-49; a 34 percent rise among women 18-34; and a 29 percent increase among women 50-plus.

“Now the show really has an adult demographic and includes a very solid female base,” notes Cardamone.

“Our viewership growth exceeded our expectations, and our media played a significant role in that growth. We over-delivered against all our measurement goals, as well as surpassed key industry benchmarks,” underscores Zach Enterlin, svp, program advertising, HBO.

“The campaign was incredibly effective in harnessing and further amplifying the social buzz and cultural capital of Game of Thrones to reach a broader audience.” —Noreen O’Leary

4

Television: $1 MIllion – $10 Million

Agency: Lowe Campbell Ewald
Client: U.S. Navy

Navy Commander Brent Phillips admits that he had “concerns about zombies.” For one, how on earth can AMC’s smash hit The Walking Dead help recruit enlistees? And why would the Navy ever associate with ghouls? He got over it pretty quickly.

The unusual second-screen union of the U.S. Navy and the dark, apocalyptic drama proved sticky, engrossing and of the moment—in short, a perfect fit for the 18- to 24-year-olds that the Navy aims to attract. From February to March, Navy lead agency Lowe Campbell Ewald placed video and customized messages on the show’s live viewing sync app that played off of Walking Dead motifs.

One example: The Navy’s tagline of “A global force for good” morphed into “Forces of evil: meet the global force for good.” What’s more, the ad space was remarkably uncluttered, with just one other advertiser.

The app deal was central to a three-pronged effort by Lowe Campbell Ewald to redefine how the Navy uses TV. The agency also leveraged the Shazam app during this year’s Super Bowl to weave Navy video and a banner ad into a Web page featuring real-time stats about the game. Finally, the shop inserted a promotion, free games and video into Microsoft’s Xbox Live for the Halo 4 launch.

Collectively, the efforts reached millennials on their own turf and helped the Navy maintain its 132-month streak of meeting recruitment goals. The push also was cost efficient, with a total price tag of less than $10 million.

Overall, the strategy was to “insert the Navy brand into pop culture or at least icons in pop culture that would be relevant to our male 18- to 24-year-old target,” explains Daniel Rioux, a media planning director at Lowe Campbell Ewald.

Still, Phillips, who leads marketing, initially balked at the Walking Dead tie-in, despite the show’s No. 1 rating across cable and network TV among adults 18-49, with an average of 7 million per episode last year, according to AMC. “So, I went and I watched all of Season 1 and Season 2. And what I found was the show did a good job of discussing moral dilemmas and positively reinforced the hard but right decisions that people make,” Phillips says. “I was able to get past the zombie element of it and then see the real point in the background: people that are trying to act with integrity despite a real hard situation. ”

And while Phillips hesitated at first, AMC director of digital ad sales Chris Cifarelli immediately saw potential, though he acknowledges the zombie hurdle. “That’s always been one of our challenges in sales: to get people to think of the show beyond simply zombies and to understand the drama of the interaction of survivors,” he says. “That’s what the show is about: survivors.” —Andrew McMains

5

Television: $10 MIllion – $25 Million

Agency: OMD
Client: Activision

Activision’s Call of Duty series is the highest-grossing entertainment franchise in the world.

You read that right.

Granted, some of that is in how you slice it, but consider this: The biggest box office weekend in history was the opening of The Avengers, which snagged more than $200 million for Disney from May 4-6, 2012.

When GameStop, Best Buy and Walmart opened their doors to customers at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, the stores sold $500 million worth of Call of Duty: Black Ops II games. By the end of that day.

Much of the credit for that record-obliterating number goes to OMD, the Omnicom media agency responsible for marketing the most popular video game in the world (the Activision account is reportedly worth some $150 million).

Scott Bishoff, group account director at OMD, says that the Call of Duty franchise “kind of transcends video gaming.”

Bishoff and his team follow the movie model closely—they play up the game’s association with celebrities, of course, but they also roll out information about the current year’s installment with care and precision, culminating (for the Black Ops II campaign) in a half-hour special on Spike TV that included a countdown clock coordinated to the game’s midnight release.

“We actually had a couple of New York Giants football players on there,” Bishoff explains. “They played some Call of Duty online against some troops overseas.”

Sports integrations are an incredibly important part of the game series’ marketing playbook. To that end, OMD tricked out ESPN’s green room with consoles and controllers. “To date, it had been a place where [the players being interviewed] would just go and check their phones, and we redid the whole thing so that it was all Call of Duty: Black Ops branded,” Bishoff says. “This wasn’t forced; some people went in there and didn’t play. But when they did, [on] this live cut-in on an ESPN show, you’d see them with the controller in their hands, playing the game.”

Of course, one reason sports are important to the campaign is that it’s one of the few ways COD players interact with the television that doesn’t involve playing the smash hit game. “We do incredible amounts of movie-trailer-like video,” Bishoff adds, “so YouTube is a huge part of our strategy.”

Because Activision tends to snag high-profile screenwriters for its flagship franchise, the presence of David S. Goyer on the project opened some doors, too. “Last summer we had a big cinema campaign,” notes Bishoff. “We also had a takeover of a subway station in New York, and we have it going all the way through the guys who get it at midnight to the guys who get it as a gift at the end of the year.”

The result? $1 billion in 15 days. And yes, that sales record beats The Avengers, too. —Sam Thielman

6

Television: $25 Million +

Agency: GMMB
Client: Obama for America 2012 Campaign

“You can’t sell the candidate like a product. A product, all you want to do is get attention. You only need 2 percent additional buyers to make the campaign worthwhile. In politics you need a flat 51 percent of the market and you can’t get that through gimmicks.” —Richard M. Nixon aide Jim Howard in The Selling of the President 1968

Despite the impact Joe McGinnis’ best-seller had on the American political establishment, Beltway hacks still love to conflate presidential election campaigns with the launch of a soda pop or a crunchier-than-usual taco shell. But as D.C. advertising agency GMMB demonstrated over the course of President Barack Obama’s bid for a second White House term, securing a majority has little to do with marketing a candidate and everything to do with microtargeting the message to reach the right voter bloc at the right time

For example, by integrating voter intel with TV ratings data, while leveraging Dish Network’s addressable-advertising technology, GMMB was able to serve up custom ads targeted to select households. Say Household A is populated by voters who threw the lever for Obama in 2008 but are concerned about the economy. In this case, a get-out-the-vote ad may prove to be the best bet. Meanwhile, across the street in Household B, the family matriarch happens to be a strong-minded independent. In order to sway her, GMMB serves up a persuasion ad. Both ads are deployed at the exact same moment and occupy the same ad slot.

In some ZIP-plus-four clusters, GMMB would have as many as a dozen different heat-seeking spots aimed at their respective targets. By comparison, the Romney campaign opted for a one-size-fits-all approach, one that assumed a single spot would speak to the concerns of all residents of a given DMA.

“The addressable approach is a gold mine,” says Danny Jester, who as svp of GMMB served as media director of both Obama campaigns. “This is as close as we can get to true personalization on TV.”

Some of Jester’s strategy came down to making earlier buys than the competition. While the Romney camp played catch-up, making late local buys meant to reach the segment with which the GOP candidate was polling favorably during that particular week, GMMB made more advance investments. For example, by claiming spots in a local newscast on WJLA, D.C.’s ABC station, nearly two weeks before Romney’s media strategists made a similar buy, GMMB paid a third the cost.

The “upfront” approach paid dividends on the national level as well, as GMMB secured favorable rates in everything from NFL games to the Emmy Awards. All told, GMMB saved Obama for America $40 million in TV expenditures and increased media value by 15 percent—all while overdelivering the free-spending Romney machine in dozens of key markets.

National cable networks were a particular favorite of the Obama campaign, which spent around $50 million on the likes of Viacom’s TV Land, MTV and Comedy Central, as well as AMC and ESPN.

And even the POTUS couldn’t resist the allure of TV’s top-rated show. “The Walking Dead outdelivered all expectations,” Jester says. “That turned out to be a very smart buy.” —Anthony Crupi

7

Best Use of Mobile

Agency: Starcom Mediavest Group
Client: Samsung Galaxy Camera

If you’re Samsung and selling $450 cameras, it seems risky to hinge part of a huge push on Instagram—the popular, free-to-use smartphone app that lets amateurs appear like auteurs via highly filtered snapshots. But Samsung’s “Life’s a Photo: Take It” campaign proves that well-conceived risks can reap amazing results.

Led by Starcom MediaVest Group with an assist from Jam, the electronics firm achieved the rare feat of establishing a global footprint for its Galaxy Camera brand through mobile and social..

In a two-month contest, Samsung called on 32 Instagram influencers in eight international markets—from San Francisco to Berlin to Sydney—to showcase their cities’ most photogenic sites while trading in their favorite camera phone app for the Galaxy. Hundreds of photos later, they increased purchase intent for Galaxy Camera by 115 percent and drove up brand awareness to the tune of 58 percent. The push also entailed 317 million paid media impressions via Vice Media, Tumblr, BuzzFeed, Twitter and Google. A video for the effort was viewed 1.3 million times across Vice’s properties as well as on YouTube.

“[The results that were] most appealing were the amazing lift in attitudinal metrics that the content we developed drove,” says KK Kee, marketing manager for Samsung’s Mobile Launching Group. “The more relevant we can be through the use of mobile and social, the more meaningful our message will be.”

To Kee’s point about social, the 32 Instagram-based stars constantly uploaded their photos—taken with the Galaxy, to be clear—to a dedicated Tumblr site. But Samsung selected a single mobile influencer for the respective eight markets to compete in an artistically inclined contest. Thousands of votes generated real-time rankings on a Tumblr-based leaderboard. Thomas Kakareko of Berlin—with 218,000 Instagram followers—creatively shepherded his German metropolis to victory.

“We have long been a proponent of leveraging influencers—whether in technology or endemic to a particular category or content,” Kee explains. “They come with a built-in audience of tuned-in fans. And they provide Samsung greater credibility in messaging, strengthening our ability to connect with an audience.”

Chris Price, Starcom’s svp, global director, says the endeavor represented the first Samsung appeal centered around Instagram. The dramatic lift in purchase intent, Price asserts, suggests that the Facebook-owned photos app is whetting consumers’ appetite for photography and signals an opening for Galaxy Camera sales.

“We needed to prove to young adults—who are obsessed with posting photos online—that the pictures they are taking with their phone cameras aren’t just good enough,” he says. “We had to show them that the Galaxy has the picture as well as the features they are used to. Instagram, which is mobile and social, is the perfect environment and audience for us to meet those goals.”

Indeed, the Galaxy Camera comes with both Instagram-like photo treatment options and the fashionable mobile app preinstalled for sharing purposes. So what better way for a budding Instagram-born photog to jump a level than with a hardware upgrade such as the Galaxy?

Price adds that a multilayered partnership with Vice Media was integral in getting the word out about the worldwide, mobile-centric initiative. “Vice reaches a hyper-passionate, trendsetting, young adult audience,” he says. “And the platform has amazing video-production capabilities. Combine those elements with its global scale—Vice and Samsung made for a very strong partnership.”

And their portfolio of data was as pretty as a picture.
–Christopher Heine

8

Best Use of Branded Content

Agency: MediaCom
Client: Volkswagen Beetle


It is the rare advertiser that actually wants to swim with sharks. Not so Volkswagen. Fashioning a shark cage in the form of a Beetle and plunging it into shark-infested waters ended up the perfect way to boost the car brand among men, explains Justin Osborne, VW’s gm of marketing communications. Such was the goal since the redesigned car had shed some of its feminine appearance.

But the Beetle can’t be wedged into an overly masculine mold, says David Fasola, managing partner, director of ideas and planning at MediaCom, which engineered an association with Discovery’s Shark Week. “It’s not a Mustang; it’s not the Marlboro Man,” says Fasola. The agency’s strategy was to reflect the ”cool guy who does cool stuff.”

With the iconic summer TV event in mind, MediaCom collaborated with Discovery, VW and the carmaker’s creative shop Deutsch LA to determine the best way to promote the car. The creation of the Beetle shark cage was shown in a series of VW-branded videos that ran on air and on the Web during Shark Week 2012, with related material available on Discovery’s app. The campaign was also promoted on social media.

Clearly, the stunt worked. From July 26 through Aug. 16 (the end of Shark Week), the Beetle shark cage campaign was posted 1.8 million times on Facebook, according to VW. Beyond the social chatter, VW sold 3,400 Beetles that August, a big jump from that year’s monthly average of 2,300. “It brought the interest in Beetle up to a new plane,” Osborne says.

Another hoped-for result: While some 20 percent of buyers of the prior Beetle generation were men, today that number is closer to 40 percent.

Discovery walked away happy, too. “When you can serve all the brands and make it entertaining, it’s a home run, and I think that’s what we have here,” says Lauren Gastwirth, vp of ad sales for Discovery. The partnership was extended to this year’s Shark Week, only this time the Beetle cage was turned into a convertible.

Not bad for a brand that in the 1970s was actually advertised as a car that could float. —David Taintor

9

Best Use of Alternative Media

Agency: Fallon
Client: IFC's Portlandia

Kyle MacLachlan plays the mayor on Portlandia, IFC TV’s sketch comedy show, but the series’ fans are the ones who really hold the power.

That insight guided the network and media agency Fallon in creating a campaign to promote the show’s third season. The push had to reflect the program’s quirky nature and let the show’s fan base retain their “ownership” of the series.

“When you have a show people feel so passionate about, you don’t want to sell out and make them think, ‘I’ve lost my favorite show,’” says Fallon connection planner Chad Koehnen. “The trick is, how do you grow the numbers and not alienate the fans?”

Cue the Portlandia Marketing Cooperative, an unconventional, largely grassroots approach that encouraged fans to participate directly in the series’ advertising, thereby strengthening their ties to the show.

Recruiting co-op members was the first order of business. “We used some radio, out of home, social and local print, but overall, it was a very small percentage” of the $2 million annual budget Fallon handles for Portlandia, says agency media director Niki Dobratz.

The campaign ran for two months, intensifying in the weeks leading up to the Jan 4, 2013 season premiere.

Co-op members were invited to create knitted coffee cozies inspired by the show and submit series-themed images via Instagram. “Portlandia fans were already doing ‘crafty’ things on their own, so we knew the co-op opportunities would be something that should appeal to them,” Dobratz says.

“We looked at what they were already doing and said, ‘How can this work for us?’” adds Lauren Burack, IFC’s marketing vp.
Given the co-op structure, participants were rewarded for their efforts.

More than 1,700 knit coffee cozies were submitted, and co-op members were paid $10 per cozie to cover the cost of materials and shipping. The cozies were distributed by independent coffee shops in designated markets that already carried Portlandia-branded cardboard coffee sleeves.

All 3,000-plus co-op members received free posters bearing the image of Colin, a chicken that appeared in one of the show’s sketches. In addition, Portlandia’s Twitter feed was turned over to six different groups or individuals for a week each. Notable tweeters included the Los Angeles Kings hockey team and Portland’s In Other Words feminist bookstore, the model for a similar store on the show. (During the push, Portlandia’s Twitter account gained 17,000 followers, an increase of 70 percent.)

This was crowdsourcing of an intimate sort. Instead of soliciting campaign ideas, and perhaps producing just one, the Portlandia Marketing Co-op made thousands of fans partners in promoting the series and helping to persuade new viewers to give it a try.

Fran Hartman, a fan who made cozies for the campaign, says the co-op was “more personal than TV commercials,” adding, “I feel I am a part of the show’s marketing program, as do all of my friends.”

The Jan. 4 Season 3 opener at 10 p.m. drew 645,000 total viewers, a nearly 30 percent improvement over the Season 2 premiere, based on live-plus-three-day data. Combined with a second episode airing at 10:30 p.m., Portlandia delivered more than 1.1 million total viewers for the night in 731,000 homes (and 751,000 viewers in the coveted adults 18-49 demo). —David Gianatasio

10

Print

Agency: Haworth Marketing + Media
Client: Target

With its pages full of scantily clad models frolicking in the surf and sun, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue—a cultural touchstone of male fantasy since its debut in 1964—isn’t the most obvious place to reach a fashion-conscious female audience. But it turns out that the annual issue reaches more than 17 million women a year. And, until recently, no one was taking advantage of it.

That all changed last year when Haworth Marketing + Media began looking for a way to promote its client Target’s position as the No. 1 retailer in share of market for women’s swimwear. Meanwhile, the new editor of the SI Swimsuit Issue, M.J. Day, had already been planning to bring more female-targeted fashion and lifestyle content into the magazine. With its millions of underleveraged female readers, the Swimsuit Issue provided a perfect opportunity for a brand like Target.

To bridge the gap between the SI audience and Target, Haworth developed “Secrets of Swimsuit,” a multichannel campaign that helped SI speak to women while allowing Target to align itself with the blockbuster magazine franchise.

At the center of the campaign was an in-book mini-mag that combined editorial directly from SI editors—think swimwear trends, styling advice, stories from top SI models—with Target’s merchandise and female-friendly ads. Ads promoting “Secrets of Swimsuit, presented by Target” surrounded SI.com content, while Target touted the brand’s appearance in SI Swim on social channels from Facebook to Pinterest. In Target stores, swimwear displays showed off styles “As Seen In” the magazine, while video monitors played SI Swimsuit co-branded content. And to kick off the campaign, Target sponsored an SI Swim event in New York that was decidedly glam.

“SI Swim has become an annual pop culture moment. When all eyes are there, we stood out by finding the white space within that moment,” says Haworth president Andrea Luhtanen. “It gave us an opportunity to speak directly to SI’s huge female audience with content relevant to her.”

While the print booklet was at the heart of the campaign, it was the multiplatform approach that made it so successful with both SI readers and nonreaders, according to Haworth associate media director Maggie Lunetta. “We created a 360[-degree] brand approach that captured the attention of the industry, SI’s audience and Target guests,” she says. “Shoppers didn’t have to read the magazine to make the connection.”

The campaign took off in both the media, where it was covered by outlets like Elle.com and NBC’s Today show, and the social Web. The mini-mag garnered an 87 percent engagement rate among female readers, while impressions on SI.com overdelivered by 250 percent. And the end goal—growing Target’s share of market—was more than accomplished. Demand for the swimwear showcased in SI boosted sales significantly in Target stores and on Target.com (the client declined to elaborate). —Emma Bazilian